The Biz by Bentley University

Part of the college application process is getting letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors or other important adults in your life.

Each college has different requirements, so the first step is to find out what kind of recommendations your colleges of interest require.

Then follow these guidelines to help you through the process:

When to Ask for Letters of Recommendation
The best time to ask for recommendations is toward the end of junior year. Many teachers like to work on the letters over the summer when they have more time.

Make your requests at least a month in advance to give your recommenders time to reflect about you, your abilities and contributions. If you wait too long, they may not have time to write a letter.

Who to Ask for Letters of Recommendation
Many colleges require you to submit recommendations from your guidance counselor and teacher.

Consider asking a current or recent teacher, rather than one you had in ninth grade. You’ve changed and developed a great deal during high school, so information from freshman year might not be as relevant.

Junior year teachers are perfect, since waiting until senior year may cause a time crunch and senior teachers may not know you as well. It’s more important that the teacher knows you well than that you got an A in the class.

Some schools also allow a coach, advisor or other significant adult in your life to write a letter. (Not all schools are open to this, so check the requirements at the colleges where you’re applying). If you’ve participated in an activity or volunteer work over several years with the same coaches/advisors, and have developed good relationships, this can be a good choice. Just make sure they’re in addition to high-quality letters from guidance counselors and teachers.

It goes without saying that you should only include people who will have positive things to say about you. A bad or lackluster letter could affect your chances of getting into your dream college.

Check out this college application advice from an actual admissions counselor.

How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation
Asking for a letter in person shows respect — don’t rely on an email or text.

Give the person some information about yourself academically, so they don’t have to try to remember everything about you. List out the high points of your performance in a class for a teacher, or a share a list of your accomplishments with a club moderator.
Provide the recommendation forms from the college (although the letter does not have to go on the forms) or send them the link to the Common Application Recommender System so they can submit the letters virtually.


Say Thanks
Finally, be sure to send a thank you note to the recommender once the letter is completed and mailed. Writing letters of recommendation isn’t easy. Send the person a note or even a small gift to let them know how much it meant to you.